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While we try to maintain our busy schedules, it’s easy to let our time spent with our pet become repetitive and predictable. Maybe you fill up their bowl before hopping onto your next Zoom meeting, or walk the same route with your puppy around the block every day. While establishing such a routine has its own merits, its important to shake things up once in a while!
Pets, like us, require mental exercise to stay healthy.
Read on to find out how you can engage your pet and bring excitement into their daily lives.
For Your Cat:
All About Scratching
No doubt, keeping your pet cat indoors is the safest option for them. On top of that, outdoor adventures may not be something your kitty particularly enjoys.
However, that doesn’t mean he can’t live an active and happy life! Cat owners can bring enrichment and excitement to their cats in the comfort of their home.
One essential every cat owner should purchase is are good-quality scratching posts.
There is more to cat scratching than you may think! On top of good ol’ exercise, cats scratch to destress and effectively mark their scent. Having cat posts to scratch and climb to their hearts’ content provides a safe, designated area for cats to enrich or even build their own daily routines around. .
Tap into Their Natural Instincts
Cats love to explore, sniff, and pounce!
Cat owners have probably seen their cat make graceful (or extremely clumsy) leaps and still land on their feet, or slide through the smallest crack in the door. These abilities are all down to a feline’s unique biology.
Cats are amazingly equipped with flexible spines which confer them their agility. In addition, cats have wide peripheral vision, which allow them to detect movement quickly. In other words, your cat is designed to be sharp hunter, covered in fluff.
Engaging these natural instincts help exercise your cat’s potential and keep them entertained. This is where quality play-time comes in.
Wand toys are especially good at catching your cat’s attention. On top of that, adding elements such as cat tunnels, DIY cat castles or even just a cardboard box with shapes cut out of them, brings a fresh level of engagement to your cat.
Internet Sensations Cole and Marmalade, and their Amazing Cat ‘Gingerbread House’
Nowadays, there are even options available for you to keep your cat entertained while you are busy! Interactive toys, such as motorised toys, crinkly toys filled with catnip, or various ‘strategy’ games such as specially-designed cat mazes may keep your pet active while you’re going about your day.
There are even ‘videos for cats’ available online, streaming fish, bird or even squirrel entertainment.Just remember, even cats need a break from screen time, and should have adequate time spent with physical toys. Constantly batting–but never catching–a digital fish just isn’t the same, and may lead to your cat getting frustrated!
Utilise the Space
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Cat owners have probably figured out that once you have a fluffy feline in your home, what’s yours is theirs. Your cat may have a favourite perch, cushion or sunny spot in the house. This is where optimising the space in your home to be more cat-friendly is a good idea.
In addition to cat-proofing, you could also create safe spaces for your cat to enjoy their day in. Consider making room for safe structures where your cat can observe the room from a height. This could be a cat tree, or even a sturdy, open shelf. You may even want to consider ways your cat can easily get from one place to another and arrange these structures accordingly.
‘Catting up’ your home can definitely range from offering a fluffy cushion next to a window, or even constructing professional ‘cat highways’. Your cat will appreciate any effort made to make their lives that much more comfortable!
For Your Dog:
Bring a Spark Back Into Walks
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The exercise gained from daily walks are not the only benefit of taking your dog on a stroll. Allow your pet to safely approach, sniff, and explore his environment. Whether it be bird watching, or rustling through some leaves, this form of sensory enrichment keeps your dog active and alert. Its easy to want to hurry your pooch along, however, taking a moment to allow your dog to engage with the environment may have a positive impact on your pet.
The Right Toys
When it comes to picking out an engaging toy, there is no shortage for your furry friend.
Balls, classic chew toys and even interactive toys are readily available in pet stores.
Still, don’t be too quick to buy the next pricey interactive toy that your dog may bore of sooner or later. Instead, rotating between different toys, while keeping some packed away, ensures that your dog remains interested and excited during play time.
Your Pet and Food Motivation
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It’s no secret that dogs love their grub.
Most dogs are food motivated, which means they respond positively to meals and treats. As a dog owner, you can utilise your dog’s enthusiasm for the tastier things in life to go about different activities around your home.
Hiding treats in clever places and letting your dog find them is an easy way to engage their senses. Remember to encourage your dog as she finds the different hiding spots!
Treats can also be used to create positive reinforcement–a key in teaching dogs just about any trick. Dogs are famously good learners, and are able to perform tricks by responding to your voice commands. Awarding treats after every motion done correctly creates positive association, and encourages your dog to keep going.
You’d be surprised how much your pet may be capable of learning!
Youtuber Liam Thompson teaching his Labradoodle, Max, to ‘Play the Piano’
This routine of demonstration and subsequent reward stimulus is called operant conditioning; your dog learns to repeat behaviours in response to a positive stimulus.
Food motivation does not just apply to dogs! Rather, any pet that appears excitable and engaged due to the promise of a feeding can be said to be so. This means you can potentially teach cats, birds and even small animals to perform tricks, although they may not be as responsive as a dog would be, thanks to a dog’s unique will to please, combined with their ability to process complex thought patterns!
Play around with what gets your pet up and going! After all, seeing them happy will be sure to bring a smile to your face, too.